Notes from “A Year in the Life of JK Rowling”

I watched a documentary on JK Rowling and the year she spent finishing the final book in the Harry Potter series and experiencing the release of the fastest selling book in history. Nothing earth-shattering, but it was still interesting to hear some of her insights. After all, she’s one of the most successful and beloved authors ever and yet she still expressed many of the same concerns as my very own author buddies.

I took notes and, while I won’t take time gathering them into any sort of thought-out essay right now, I did want to share what I wrote down. Hope you find these helpful:

-When asked what quality defined her Rowling said that, above all, she’s a “trier.”

-Jo was drafting the final book. She was typing and periodically checking her notes. She got to a part and she looked up and started giggling. She explained that she wrote in the margin, “This will take serious planning.” She cursed and said she had no idea what she meant but that she was certainly right!

-To finish the final chapters Jo locked herself in a hotel room. When she finished editing those chapters there was an awkward pause like she didn’t know what to do next. She just said it was done and shrugged. It was quite unceremonious.

-Right after she completed the series she told the interviewer candidly: “Some people will loathe it. That’s as it should be. For some people to love it, others must loathe it…so much expectation from the hardcore fans.” Despite this, she said that she was really, really happy with it. She liked it and admitted that she doesn’t always feel that way about her writing.

-The narrator of the documentary began commenting on the manuscript’s journey after completion. He remarked, “The process all seems so normal,” then proceeds to explain how the manuscript is printed out, taken in person to Jo’s agent Christopher Little in London. There was then a handover at Heathrow airport in a locked suitcase…ummm…what does this narrator thinks normally happens with books??

-Jo says she wished more than anything to be published and more than anything to be a writer. But it never occurred to her in a million years people would search her trash or try to interview her oldest friends or her scrutinize her children.

-At the film premiere of Order of the Phoenix she talks about how she’s expected to be like a film star but she’s a writer. Some of it’s fun and some of it’s horrible. Fun to talk to people who have read the books. Difficult to do the stagey stuff. She’s not very good at it and that doesn’t make her a better person because she’s not good at that. It’s just that people expect her to be visibly enjoying herself and sometimes she comes off as looking miserable.

-When she gets stressed, she detaches and only trusts one person, herself. Everyone else gets locked out and she has to do everything herself. I wonder if she has crit partners, etc. Probably just her agent at this point, right?

-She has trouble dealing with the level of expectation but ultimately decided it’s the best she could do and that’s how she planned it to end all along, so it was going to have to be good enough.

-At the book’s release party: “Doesn’t really matter if I get a bit drunk and disorderly; I finished the book.”

-She chose the ending because to her, personally, the most courageous thing a person could do was to climb back to normality. It’s just harder to rebuild, she says, than to destroy. ***SPOILER*** Would have been a neater ending to kill him, but it would have been a betrayal. He was her hero and had to do the most heroic thing in her eyes, rebuilding post-tragedy–both on a macro- and micro-level.

-Writers always have to know more than they put in.

-As the documentary wrapped up, Jo drew a family tree for the survivors of the series. She said writing the series was like running a race, she was going too fast and couldn’t stop. That’s why she had to keep thinking about who would make up the next generation. She wants her version of who ended up with whom, etc. to be the official version because it’s her world. And even though she doesn’t want to write anymore Harry Potter, she still thinks she should have the final say on that.

-Now Hollywood comes to her. When execs came to discuss the creation of a Harry Potter theme park she said that when she is sitting in a roomful of people trying to impress her, that is when she feels the most fraudulent.

-At the time she started writing the series she had made such a mess of her life. It was stripped down. It was freeing. She wanted to write a book, so she did. What was the worst that could happen? She got rejected? Ok.

-She visited the apartment where she began Book 1. A new family lives there and in her old room she sees her published books on the shelves. She admits its a big yawn to hear because hers is such a well-worn story by this point, but it’s her life and she didn’t expect that there would be a fairytale resolution.

-She’s now writing a story she describes as a political fairytale for older children. She’s not in a hurry to publish since she’s lived 10 years with deadlines. Now no one is expecting it or knows anything about it. It’s just like writing Sorcerer’s Stone. She can just relax.

-When asked if she feels lucky she says that having the idea was lucky. She implies the rest was work.

-She feels like less of a fraud as she gets older. She’s a born trier. Still writes because she loves it and needs it. Wants to be remembered as someone that did the best she could with the talent she had.

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Make-a-Fan Monday: Working Partners

 

Today I’m making you a fan of…Working Partners, Ltd.

What is Working Partners? Recently, the company seems to have blossomed into an umbrella for several different companies. But, I first learned of Working Partners as a children’s fiction book packager. You might be wondering what the heck a book packager is. Well, essentially, a publisher may choose to acquire a book or series that has been almost fully produced by a book packager. Meaning the book has been written and edited under the guidance of the book packaging company. In the case of a company like Working Partners, creative in house editors will brainstorm ideas for new books and series. Then, they will come up with extremely detailed plots and hire writers to do the actual line-by-line, chapter-by-chapter writing. In my research, most book packagers have been aimed at nonfiction books, so one of the reasons I was so drawn to Working Partners is its focus on children’s lit. (Another great packager of children’s series is Alloy.)

Reasons why you should love them: For one, if you are a writer, it’s a new market to explore. Work-for-hire can be a great income supplement because of the typically shorter turnarounds. It’s also a fantastic way to learn. If hired, you would be working closely with an editor, receiving feedback and direction. Moreover, what better way to flex your writing muscles? Like performing exercises as a musician or an athlete, it can be good to develop different sides of your craft. Maybe it will be beneficial for you to practice a new tone or voice in your writing without having to think about the plot. Maybe you’ll learn how to brainstorm different ways to convey the same story. Also, last time I received their writers’ information packet, they were offering substantial royalties. A lot of packagers pay only flat fees, so yay for Working Partners being pro-author. (Oh yeah, and their authors receive advances, too, so no worries).

So how does it work, you might ask? Interested writers may fill out the Writers Information form on the Working Partners website. I’ll be honest, I think more and more of the writers chosen are agented now as opposed to unagented. But, I don’t think that should deter you, depending on experience, etc. Editors will select writers for auditions based on their forms. If selected, you will receive an email asking if you would be interested in auditioning for a certain project. The editor will then send a synopsis of the book and you will be asked to write the beginning of the book, probably upwards of 6,000 words, to turn in by a specified date. Usually about 5 writers receive an invitation to audition for any given project and only one is chosen. Unchosen authors are still given about a page letter detailing reasons the editors either liked the sample or disliked. So, either way, it can be a great way to get real editor feedback. The editors are prompt and professional and just because you aren’t selected for a given project, doesn’t mean an editor won’t want to approach you again for a different project for which you might be a better fit.

 

So now that you’re a fan, where can you stalk?

To read a great Working Partners series, check out the Warriors series by Erin Hunter. (I’ve read one of these books and they really are a lot of fun.)

The Working Partners website

The new adult division, Rights People, and Greenhouse Literary

Interview with Alexandra Kirby, editor in 2006 for Working Partners

Message from Chris Snowdon (Managing Director) on Undiscovered Voices

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Update and Here’s a Question for Ya

Okay, so today’s post (and by post I mean the one sentence I’m about to write here and slap up on the internet), is completely unrelated to the series of posts I’ve been doing. So, don’t try to draw any interesting paralells or find the missing link. K?

Quick update, though. I’ve officially started the agented author support group I talked about. So, if you are an agented writer and would like to join, please email me at chandler1986 (at) gmail (dot) com or you can comment on this post. Either one.

Now, for my question(s):

Are most authors women? If so, why?

Book Review: Ink Exchange

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I read Wicked Lovely this past summer and loved it. I hadn’t been dying to read Ink Exchange, though. No particular reason except that there were other books on my “To Be Read” List calling my name. So I put off reading Melissa Marr’s second book. That is, until I started reading her blog.

Melissa has a fascinating section on her website called “Writing Chatter,” which gives a lot of insight into her writing process, what she thinks about while writing, etc. I checked it out along with some of her blog archives.

No doubt most of y’all have heard of the “sophomore slump.” Authors have years to write their first published book and then they are forced to meet a deadline and, well, sometimes it’s difficult to reproduce the magic of the first book.

Melissa says about writing Ink Exchange, “I spent a lot of time looking at Ink Exchange & being pretty certain that it would fail, that Wicked Lovely was a fluke…”

It wasn’t a fluke. I finished Ink Exchange last night. Mainly because I read on Melissa’s site that it was more the book of her heart than Wicked Lovely and that it was the darker book she had wanted to write. And I loved it.

I thought the actual writing was much better. It’s the same voice and style–very straight forward, no nonsense–but that’s the only style I can picture the subject matter in. What impressed me most were a few of the action/fight sequences. Her imagery is beautiful and pacing spot on. If you’ve read the book or are planning on reading it, look for the scene where Bananach meets Niall in an alley to see what I mean. I’m planning on re-reading this scene several more times before I get into some of the fight scenes for my own book proposal.

Coming in a close second–or maybe tied?–for the element that most impressed me in Ink Exchange is Melissa Marr’s appeal to all five senses. Ink Exchange is a sensual experience in every sense of the word. I rarely see an author focus on taste, smell, and touch to the same degree that he or she draws the reader’s attention to sight and sound.

One thing I did wonder as I read was: Is the author trying to be dark for darkness’s sake?

At times, I found myself trying to decide whether the violence, sex, and drugs were a bit gratuitous. In the end, I decided No. I did my test: Will the story work without that element? Here, the answer was no. I will say, though, that this is not a book for young teens. It’s definitely pushing the envelope for even upper YA. But something came to mind as I worried about the appropriateness of the content for teens. Maybe y’all remember the scandal surrounding Dakota Fanning’s “rape scene” in the recent movie Hound Dog. I am constantly impressed by that girl’s apparent maturity. But when people criticized her mother for allowing her to be in the movie, she responded head on, saying “You have to prepare your children for things that happen in the world. Everything isn’t rosy.”  For me, that seems to sum up Ink Exchange nicely. To those recent critics of YA who seem to think that the category talks down to its readers, hinders them from learning, and is an utter waste of a tree, I might suggest picking up Ink Exchange and then getting back to us.

 

To read my review of Melissa Marr’s first book, Wicked Lovely, set in the same world, click here.

2009 Debutante Interview Series: Saundra Mitchell

After our one week hiatus, I can’t wait to resume our 2009 Debutante Interview Series. I mentioned Saundra last week following an article she sent to me about a new comic book imprint, but this is 10x better because she’s hear to talk about her own journey to publication! 

Saundra Mitchell has been a phone psychic, a car salesperson, a denture-deliverer and a layout waxer. She’s now an author and screenwriter, and happy that she’s finally found her calling. Her debut novel, Shadowed Summer, comes out February 10, 2009 from Delacorte.

 

Nothing ever happened in Ondine, Louisiana, not even the summer Elijah Landry disappeared.

His mother knew he ascended to heaven, the police believed he ran away, and his girlfriend thought he was murdered.

Decades later, certain she saw his ghost in the town cemetery, fourteen-year-old Iris Rhame is determined to find out the truth behind “The Incident With the Landry Boy”

Enlisting the help of her best friend Collette, and forced to endure the company of Collette’s latest crush, Ben, Iris spends a summer digging into the past and stirring old ghosts, in search of a boy she never knew.

What she doesn’t realize is that in a town as small as Ondine, every secret is a family secret.

 

Shadowed Summer is your debut novel, so a big congrats on that. But can you give us a little statistical rundown on how long it took you to get to this point? How many books? How many rejections? How many days, months, or years?

I’ve been writing professionally for fifteen years, and I stopped counting rejections at 1180- the last rejection before Wonder Agent Sara Crowe sold Shadowed Summer.

Which “Call” thrilled you more? The call in which you landed an agent or the call in which you landed your book deal? Can you describe to us what it felt like?

As ecstatic as I was getting the book deal call, I have to give the edge to landing the agent! I’d been previously represented, and things hadn’t worked out. I lost a lot of confidence- not only was I afraid I’d
never sell a novel, I wasn’t sure I’d ever write another! It was such a dark time, I gave myself permission to quit- after I sent out one more query letter.

I spent a lot of time researching, searching for exactly the agent I wanted. I read the books on several agents’ lists, scoured the Internet for stories about them, about their styles, anything, everything. Finally, I decided that I would send my last query to Sara Crowe at Harvey Klinger, Inc. – who sold my debut four months after she offered to rep me!

And you know what it felt like? It felt like breathing again.

 

Wow. What a fantastic story. You must be meant to write. Throughout your journey as a writer, what resources have you found most valuable to your success? Websites? Books? Conferences?
What I find the most valuable is reading other writers’ work. I read, read, read- scripts, stories and books- non-fiction and fiction both. Not only does it help me understand the tone of the market, it teaches
me by excellent example. If I forget I’m reading and slip into a world someone else created- those are the words I read again and study, so I can find out how the author achieved it.

Great tip! We all know that writers go through hard times on their way to success. How have you handled rejection in the past?
When I get rejected, really, when I get any kind of bad news, I work harder. I don’t mean that in a philosophical way. For example- when a blurb recently fell through for me, I wrote notes to sixty local librarians introducing myself and my book, instead of my usual thirty. I really believe that success comes from the willingness to get kicked in the face and keep going.

 

I think that has to be the best way to handle rejection. No wonder you’ve succeeded. I understand you were/are a screenwriter? What lessons have you brought from screenwriting over to penning novels?
I was, and I still am- although now I’m moving into supervising other screenwriters instead of doing all the work myself! And I think one of the best things I brought from screenwriting to fiction is a good ear
for dialogue.

In a screenplay, I don’t get to discuss how the characters feel, or what they’re thinking- that’s for the director and actor to decide! So I’ve learned to pitch my dialogue so it’s natural (since real people have to speak it,) but also meaningful- as that’s the only way I can get my point across in a script.

Through writing groups and during revisions, I’ve gotten compliments on how real my characters sound. That’s a huge honor, and I have to give screenwriting the credit!

 

Awesome. I’ve always pushed the idea of writing scripts to help your novel writing. Hopefully, you’ve won a few converts. This is Fumbling with Fiction, so I have to ask, in your writing career have you ever had a big “Oops!” moment?
Early on, an established screenwriter took the time to work with me on my scripts. She challenged me to excel, and when I finally produced a solid episodic (a script for a one hour television drama,)
she recommended me to her agent. This was a Big Deal, but I had never done a business call where I had to sell *me*.

When this agent asked me how I would describe myself, I said, “Oh, I’m just a little midwestern housewife trying to make good!” The call chilled after that, and you’re probably not surprised to find out that
he didn’t offer to represent me.

So that was a big oops, but it was also a great lesson. Never minimize your own ability or ambition. There are enough people in the world who will do that for you!

 

So true. The best person to sell yourself is you. Your short story “Ready to Wear” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize! Do you feel that writing short stories was necessary to your progressing to novels? (*I don’t mean progression in a value sense, just in length!*)
I do for me, absolutely! One of my biggest challenges is weighting a fictional world effectively. Like, knowing what’s important to include, and what’s not. Screenplays are sparse, and many of the details don’t
belong to me. So short stories help me bridge the forms. They’re compact, like a script, but narrative, like novels. They help me slip between the two worlds. Plus? I just really enjoy writing them!

 

Now that you are a soon-to-be-published author, seeing the view from the other side, what has been your favorite moment in the publishing process so far? What part of the process has most surprised you?
Every time something new happens, that’s my favorite moment. For serious. Getting my contract was my favorite. Then, getting my revision was my favorite. Then my ISBN. Then cover art. Then FPPs, then ARCs, even the tiny little leaf they used to separate paragraphs! It’s all so amazing; I am having a grand time with every little thing.

The most surprising part is how little I know from day to day. I bug my editor occasionally to find out where I’m at in the process. But mostly, it’s all wonder and mystery- like, I found out that my book had been
chosen for the Junior Library Guild… I didn’t even know it had been submitted for consideration!

On the downside, it’s bewildering to realize how much is out of my hands now. on the upside, every day that brings news is a prize! 🙂

 

Tell us a little about receiving your first editorial letter. What was yours like? How did you feel when you received it?
I was excited! Now, in the future, I’ll probably have a little dread, because fiction revisions are *hard*! But Sara sold my novel in January, and between my schedule and my editor’s schedule, we couldn’t get started on revisions until JULY. So there was a six-month stretch where I knew I’d sold a book, but I had that unreasonable fear it might all just disappear. That revision letter was proof it was really, really, real!

 

Finally, if you could have written one book previously published by another author, which book would it be?
Man, that is so hard. I like going to other people’s places, and I like going into mine- they’re such different things to me. But I think I’d love to claim Anneli Rufus’ “The Loner’s Manifesto.” It’s non-fiction, exquisitely written, and so immediate and real. I wish my words would resonate like that.

 

You stuck to one! I can hardly believe it.

Thanks for coming and chatting with me, Saundra. You were so fun to talk to and I can’t wait to read Shadowed Summer. Keep in touch and let us know what is happening with your writing life.

10 Things An Agent Might Not Wanna Hear

 An agent calls to talk to you about your project. Yay! But there might be another reason he wants to talk to you on the phone. Here’s 10 surefire things you can mention to make him regret ever dialing your number.

 

1. So, when will my movie be made?

2. You can guarantee me a $200,000 advance, right?

3. Alright, so when I call you every twenty minutes, you’ll get back to me within five, ya?

4. You’re so lucky to have me. I mean, you’ll really thank me when I make the bestseller list.

5. Thanks for offering, I’ll get back to you in ten weeks, k?

6. I took thirteen years to write this novel, but don’t worry I’ll cut it down to ten for the next.

7. Oh shoot, did I forget to tell you? I already accepted an offer. Thanks for reading my entire novel in 2 days though.

8. Yeah…um…can you just hold that thought while I query a dozen or so other agents? No offense, but I queried by third tier choices first.

9. So, have you sold anything in my genre? I didn’t bother checking because I figured you could just tell me when we talked. Time management. Smart, huh?

10. You want me to…REVISE!? How dare you doubt my genius!

 

Moral of the story: It’s usually a good idea to avoid sounding arrogant, psycho, cracked out or all three. Good talk. See you out there.

 

 

Status: Taking some suggestions from incredibly fabulous AW members. Will be thinking hard these next 2 days. It’s a tough life, Charlie Brown. (Kidding! Kidding.)

The Perfect Storm

Ok, bear with my line of reasoning here. I was watching the news and following the whole Hurricane Gustav thing. (Very thankful it turned out to be less devastating than predicted.) Then, I was thinking, Hey, remember that movie/book The Perfect Storm. That was a good movie/book. And I don’t even care for Nicolas Cage because he looks like a guppy.

Anyway, for the perfect storm to occur, there must be a mixture of elements that come together to create a magnified impact, right? And as we know, when writing a story, it’s all about bringing the scenes and plot lines together to impact the reader. Ooooh analogies.

So, I got to thinking, what elements would be needed to form a perfect book?

 

For me?

I’d want a surprise ending, a twisty/turny narrative style (sort of like in Toni Morrison’s Beloved), an important character to die (Goodness, what does that say about me?), a love triangle in which both “choices” are tempting in completely different ways, an element of fantasy, the main character to have a cool job/trade, a dark side, villains that are well-intentioned, and descriptions that make me think, “How the heck did the author think of that?”

 

So yeah, that’s it. Know of any books like that? No? If not, I guess I’ll have to write it.

 

( I can see it now…A unicorn that falls in love with a gypsy and a witch until the unicorn dies, and you find out that actually the gypsy is the main charac……..)

 

Ok, so what about y’all? What elements would you need to make your perfect book?

 

Status: Two more requests for SCOUT today. Yay!!!!!!!!!

Book Review: The Gargoyle

 

“Marianne Engel is a beautiful sculptress of gargoyles who appears in the burn unit one day and tells the narrator of this mesmerizing tale that they were lovers in medieval times, when she was a scribe and he was a mercenary. Is she simply mad? Or is she truly the angle of mercy who will save him from his suicidal dispair?”

 

Ok, girls. We’ve got to get something out of the way: Andrew Davidson is one good lookin’ author. I mean seriously. And there is the biggest author headshot on the back cover that I’ve ever seen to prove it.

For some reason, when I heard about this random writer from Manitoba penning a first novel that was big enough to swallow me whole, my thoughts immediately jumped to old, creepy dude with a porcupine beard and ugly spectacles. Wrong. Trust me.

But even if Andrew Davidson was a creepy dude with a gnarly beard it wouldn’t matter because he told a beautiful story.

Y’all should know by now that, as a reviewer, I refuse to give anything away about the story except for facts that can be found on the back cover. So this review will follow suit as I’ll focus on his writing.

They just don’t write like that anymore. I don’t know who “they” is and I know I sound like a grandma, but The Gargoyle is fantastically crafted. His descriptions and use of simile and metaphor are startlingly original and breathtakingly on point. This book had me re-reading sentences over and over again out of sheer amazement. And he does it again and again. Here, I’ll open to a page at random:

“For the most part my childhood was not agreeable, but I was never sexually auctioned so my guardians might crank up. Still, a man should be able to say better things about his youth than that.”

The narrator, while not always a sympathetic character, is never uninteresting. His voice is consistently unusual and his view of the world feels reasonable, if not what you want to hear.

If you love books in which you can learn a lot of random tidbits, this one is for you. You’ll know all you ever want to know about burns and the narrative will force you to think about what it would feel like to be a burn victim. Yes, your skin will crawl and you’ll hold the book far from your face in disgust while looking sideways for the first 70 pages because it’s that graphic. But, like those True Crime shows about serial killers, you can help but want to know the rest.

Also a ton of different religious insight from medieval times to present. Enlightening. You’ll enjoy those parts.

I thought what would really bug me were the tales related by the narrator, but “originally” told by Marianne Engel. They didn’t at all. In fact, those little fables were fascinating, romantic, and often tragic. Again, you’ll look forward to those.

My one complaint is that it’s a bit long. It might have been able to be trimmed down a bit, but I’m not complaining too loudly.

Moral of the story is that you need to read it. I applaud Doubleday for seeing the value in this work and I think Mr. Davidson earned his $1.25 million. Let me know what y’all think.

 

 To read another book review, check out my thoughts on The Map Thief.

 

Winners of the ARCs will be announced shortly!

Status: Moving…ugh.

Topical Tuesday: To self-publish or not to self-publish?

I’m blogging late because I’ve been packing. More on why in my status report.

Anyway, on to Topical Tuesday. Should an author ever self-publish?

It kills me to do it, but I’m gonna go ahead and waffle.

Because it depends. It really does. First and foremost, a self-published novel does not a published author make. We need to be clear on that point. Once we understand that bit, we can tackle the question of when it is appropriate to self-publish.

The reason is that the decision on whether or not to self-publish is based entirely on expectations.

If you as an author understand that by signing up with XYZ vanity press, you are not being “accepted” for publication and, therefore, will receive no editorial advice than you are well on your way to making an informed decision.

If, however, you buy into the language you see on a site like PublishAmerica, well, then that’s where the problem lies.

Yesterday, Mike Boyd brought the perfect perspective and attitude to self-publication. He’d tried and is still trying to pursue the traditional route, but he wanted a nice, readable copy of his novel to share with family and friends. Great! That’s exactly what a self-published novel should be used for. His expectations were realistic. He understood that he would not be selling a zillion copies.

Vanity presses are money making endeavors. So long as the author recognizes that, we’re all good. Publish away. But don’t count on selling it later. AND read the contract carefully.

 

Status: I once read a warning to writers about linking bad habits to creative process. In other words, you shouldn’t drink when you write because you may come to rely on alcohol in order to write. Another example was staying up late. I thought it was ridiculous when I read about several writers who worked through the night and slept through the day. I thought it ridiculous until ever so slowly that writer has become me. Now, I’m not sleeping through the ENTIRE day, but it’s not good. I have always been a morning person, but now I’m staying up ’til 3 or 4 writing and not getting up until noon. So, today, I packed all day and have been trying to wear myself out. So far, I think it is working. Tonight, I will try to go to bed at midnight and get up at 8. Wish me luck.

On a more positive note, last night during the wee hours I came up with some great stuff for my SCOUT graphic novel. It’s really taking off and I love it!

Writer of the Day: Chelle Cordero

Hi, all. Chelle Cordero, the author of BARTLETT’S RULE and FORGOTTEN has agreed to come on and speak to us about promoting your book and yourself as an author. Very important lessons for any new author regardless of whether you are at a major publishing house or a small, indie press like Chelle.

Plus, I think small presses are awesome, so I can’t wait to hear her perspective!

 

  Your book may have best-seller content, but unless it is publicized, few will even notice its existence. While the major publishing houses may spend mega-bucks promoting some of their hottest-authors’ novels, the cost of a full publicity campaign for small press publishers is often prohibitive. If you are self-published the full burden – and cost – of promotion falls on you.
 
            NO ONE has as much at stake in the success of your book as you do – it doesn’t matter if you’ve been published by one of the top ten New York houses, a young small press or even self-published. Once you have completed penning your novel it is time to embark on the business end of book writing.
 
            My first novel, Courage of the Heart, was published by a full self-publishing print-on-demand publisher. After receiving several rejections to my query letters (I didn’t even get so far as submitting the manuscript), one kind, but retiring, agent recommended that I seek a non-traditional publishing company. At the time that I first found this publisher they were offering a totally FREE package for publishing upon acceptance ONLY. When they accepted my manuscript I thought, naively, that I had caught my big break. What I didn’t understand at that point was that the “publisher” offered no help to me in terms of marketing. I didn’t know how to go about promoting my book either. Needless to say, very few copies sold.
 
            Still optimistically wary (do those two words even go together?), seven years later I sent a query to small independent press Vanilla Heart Publishing in Everett, Washington. My book, Bartlett’s Rule, was accepted! After doing a very energetic happy dance, I started an endless torrent of questions and read the contract offer with a magnifying glass (literally) – I didn’t want to mislead my hopes again. I also did a lot of research and I was aware that a small press publisher had limited financial resources to do publicity – and I wanted to maximize that. There are companies that specialize in book promotion similar to the in-house departments at several of the “big houses”, but again, it can cost mega bucks.
 
            Using Vanilla Heart Publishing as an example… the publisher will include your book in catalogues and listings to major distributors, submit press releases to various media outlets throughout the nation, prepare and distribute informational packages on you and your book to bookstores, newspapers, libraries, etc., and provide a web presence for you and your book. My publisher also produced a book trailer and designed an eye-catching book cover, both are posted online. They also sent me business cards to hand out.
 
            VHP is located on the other side of the country from my own New York location. I am more familiar with the local media (print, radio and television) simply because I live here, read local newspapers and play local radio and TV channels. I took the press release that VHP sent out about Bartlett’s Rule, modified it to include a local angle and re-sent it to specifically local publications. One local weekly newspaper soon ran a wonderful article with the headline “Local Author Has Book Published”. I modified a second press release from VHP after they signed my next novel, Forgotten (due out in July) the same way and was mentioned in the daily newspaper book blog; this time the headline was “Second book for Rockland’s Chelle Cordero”
 
            Many “experts” say that social and professional network sites are crucial to word-of-mouth business. While you have to maintain a level of professionalism and still sound approachable, it is okay to be friendly but do stop short of discussing things that are really “TMI”. I have my writing life blatantly inscribed on my MySpace, Facebook and Inked-In pages as well as on the more business-oriented sites. I maintain a completely self-promotional and, yes, egotistical, blog at http://chellecordero.blogspot.com/. Why not? Do we chastise the big retailers, car dealers and home product manufacturers for the advertising that peppers our newspapers, magazines and TV broadcast channels?
 
            VHP managing editor Kimberlee Williams sent out introductory packages to many retailers and libraries in my area. Now that the first professional intro has been made, I am following up with phone calls, emails and personal visits. I am hoping to land author events, book discussion groups and placement on store shelves.
 
            It may seem like a lot of work but this time around I am determined that I HAVE caught my big break and I will be a success.